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NHS asks ‘do your bit’

Don’t just turn up to A&E – think pharmacy, 111 and GP first

Public asked to #doyourbit to protect the NHS by keeping A&E free for serious emergencies.

Health leaders across Northumberland, North Tyneside, Newcastle and Gateshead are asking people to do their bit by thinking pharmacy, GP and 111 first, and not just to turn up to A&E.

The plea is the first part of a new ‘do your bit’ campaign aimed at raising awareness of the first routes people should take for urgent medical advice and treatment, following the disruption caused by Covid19.

Health chiefs say that due to social distancing and infection precautions, the space available in A&E to care for people and allow NHS staff to work safely has been reduced by 30-50 per cent. Action is needed now to protect patients and staff alike from now and into the future.

Bas Sen, a Consultant in Emergency Medicine, Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle and Regional Clinical Advisor for the North East and Yorkshire said: “We want to make it easier and safer for patients to get the right advice or treatment when they urgently need it. We are now putting in place measures to support and guide the public to make the right healthcare choices. This will help ensure their safety, as well as making sure they get the right treatment in the most appropriate place.

“Specifically, if their need is not life threatening, we would advise patients to contact their local pharmacy, their GP or 111 online in the first instance.

“Advice will be provided based on individual issues and solutions will range from self-care through to an appointment with a GP, or being directed to go to a pharmacist or Urgent Treatment Centre.

“Those that do turn up to either an A&E department or an Urgent Treatment Centre, will be assessed clinically by a member of our team and if suitable, will be re-directed to a more appropriate service for their needs.”

The campaign is supporting a pilot scheme which commenced on 3 August by the NHS in the North Integrated Partnership (ICP) area (which covers Gateshead, Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland) before being rolled out across the region in September 2020.

Bas continued: “Too many people who come to A&E can be dealt with quicker by an alternative service such as their pharmacist, GP or 111. In light of COVID-19, and with winter ahead, it is more important than ever that we don’t have large volumes of people in our surgeries, clinics and hospitals when they could have been cared for elsewhere.”

“Because of the need to socially distance our hospitals have reduced space in waiting rooms and with around 50-70 per cent of attendances at A&E made up of patients who walk-in we must keep people safe – especially our most vulnerable and shielded patients.

“By thinking of alternative services such as pharmacist, GP and 111 first people can do their bit to help stop the spread of Coronavirus, keep people safe and keep A&E for real emergencies. At the same time this also means they will get the right treatment in a timely manner, in the most appropriate place for them too.

“So please don’t turn up or walk in to A&E or urgent care services without seeking advice from either a 111, GP or pharmacist, first – unless your condition is life threatening.

“Please remember that NHS 111 can make direct appointments at surgeries, pharmacies and urgent treatment centres. They can also send an ambulance should your condition be serious or life-threatening.”

In addition, we are asking people to act responsibly and consider carefully the impact drug use and alcohol has on people behaviours which can increase demands within A&E departments.

Clinical lead for the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care System, Professor Chris Gray, said: “The support for the NHS has been amazing over recent months and as winter approaches we will be asking people to keep this up and do their bit to protect the NHS and each other. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all our health and care staff across the North East and North Cumbria. The last few months have been difficult and their commitment to delivering excellent quality care has never waived.”

Our Strategic Plan for 2020-2022

The plan below sets out our plans for the next three years, as identified by the Healthwatch Northumberland Board.

We have three strategic aims which are the themes for our work over the lifetime of the strategy. Our work each year will be identified as meeting one or more of the aims.

Health: with the help of Healthwatch Northumberland, the views, knowledge and experiences of health service users and carers are listened to and influence changes and developments in health service in Northumberland.

Social Care: With the help of Healthwatch Northumberland, the views, knowledge and experiences of service users and carers are listened to and influence changes and developments in social care services in Northumberland.

Communication and Engagement: the people, service providers, commissioners and key stakeholders in Northumberland know, trust and are involved with Healthwatch Northumberland.

 

Read our Strategic Plan for 2020-2022

Patient Transport Services Update

Please see below the latest update from North East Ambulance Service about transport services for patients.

 

North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) continues to follow government guidance to ensure that the NHS can support people who need to go to hospital. We are providing transport safely and swiftly during the COVID-19 pandemic, for those who need to attend appointments because of a life-threatening condition. Patients calling 999 for an emergency ambulance will be provided with a face mask, unless this compromises their care; for example, when being given oxygen.

For non-emergency transport to hospital appointments or clinics, patients need to play their part by using their own face covering, over their mouth, nose and chin when on-board our ambulance. The hospital or clinic may also provide a face mask before you leave for your ambulance journey home. Please do not remove it unless asked by our staff. Patients can also help by washing their hands for at least 20 second before leaving their home or hospital to get into an ambulance.

Currently, our transport services are prioritised for the following patients:

  • Patients who have been discharged and need to be transported from one care setting to another, or home, if there is no alternative means of transport.
  • Patients suspected of having COVID-19 who need to attend ongoing care appointments and have no access to private travel.
  • Patients with life-sustaining care needs who need to attend a care setting, such as for dialysis, and have no access to private travel.
  • Patients defined on medical grounds as extremely vulnerable from COVID-19 who need to attend ongoing care appointments and have no access to private travel.
    • High risk patients include organ transplant recipients and people with specific cancers, severe respiratory conditions, rare diseases and those on immunosuppression therapies, and women who are pregnant and have significant congenital heart disease.
    • A detailed list is available on the gov.uk website.

 

Patient Safety and Staff Wellbeing

To minimise the risk of infection, staff and volunteers supporting the transport of patients with confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19 are following NHS guidance on use of personal protective equipment and decontamination of vehicles. Non-essential persons are not able to travel with a patient. This includes family members and relatives of patients, unless they are also acting as carer. Parents or guardians must accompany children under 18.

 

Attending non-essential appointments

When NEAS receives a booking for patient transport, we only know the destination clinic and not the treatment the patient is receiving. This means when a patient contacts NEAS to book transport, if their clinic is not on the essential clinic list, we can only direct the patient back to the hospital. A list of essential treatments is listed on the gov.uk website.

The hospital is the arbitrator of a patient’s need for transport as they will be aware of the patient’s treatment and condition. Any patient requesting transport not going to a listed essential clinic will be referred to the hospital for their consideration as to whether transport should be provided. In these circumstances, the hospital will contact us directly.

This arrangement has been working well. We have been able to accommodate all the additional transport requests made by hospitals up to now.

Resuming transport to non-essential appointments in the future

Social distancing guidelines do not allow us to carry more than one patient on board an ambulance. This has significantly reduced the capacity we have to carry patients and means we are not able to resume all our services now. We are working with all the hospitals and clinical commissioning groups in the North East region to plan how we can extend our services beyond the current list of prioritised patients. Please contact your clinic or hospital to discuss transport in the first instance.

Annual Report 2019/20

Our Annual Report for the financial year 2019-20 is out now. Have a look to see what we’ve been up to, what people told us about their experiences of NHS, health and social care and how we made a difference to people in Northumberland.

 

Healthwatch Northumberland Annual Report 2019/20.

Berwick Infirmary

Trust seeks planning approval for new Berwick hospital

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has submitted a planning application for the new multi-million-pound hospital in Berwick. The trust is seeking permission from Northumberland County Council for the two-storey integrated hospital on the site of the existing infirmary. If planning approval is granted, the building will have a central atrium/reception space and accommodate all the existing services and Well Close Medical Group.

The submission of the planning application follows extensive engagement with staff, residents and community groups with more than 95 per cent of people involved in this process supporting the proposals. The trust is also assuring the local community that the £25million earmarked for this facility is still available and the funding has not been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Marion Dickson, executive director at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, who is leading the Berwick redevelopment project, said “We are absolutely delighted that our plans for a new hospital in Berwick have moved forward with the submission of our planning application. We have been working towards formally seeking planning permission for some months and we would like to thank the local community for their invaluable input in this engagement – to have had such a positive response to our proposals is excellent.

“While the NHS has faced many challenges in recent months, we can assure local people that there is no doubt over the funding for the new hospital and the £25million set aside is intact. We are also confident that the project can be delivered within this budget and we look forward to the next stage of this exciting development.”

More than 200 people attended a drop-in session in the town in March to view the new hospital proposals with more than 100 people giving feedback as part of the online planning consultation after a further drop-in session could not be held due to government restrictions. Alongside this process, the trust has undertaken extensive engagement on all clinical aspects of the hospital, with clinical teams having a major input into its design to ensure it supports an improved experience for patients and is fit for the future.

The hospital’s modern design incorporates sustainability and efficiency in the final choice of materials and will embrace the latest technology in delivering the highest quality of care. The existing Bell Tower is retained as part of the plans and the trust is looking into its potential use for the community. Services will continue to be provided throughout this process and the winning images from the photography competition are set to be placed on the hoardings in the coming weeks.

The target completion date for the new hospital is spring 2022.

Public invited to have say on plans for new Berwick hospital

Update 22 April 2020: 

The deadline for residents to look at and comment on proposals for the new Berwick hospital has been extended to 5.00pm on Monday 27 April. Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has extended the consultation to give people as much opportunity as possible to see them before the planning application is submitted.

 

People in Berwick are being given another opportunity to see plans for a new £25million hospital in the town.

Following community engagement last month, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust is inviting the public to view the proposals on a new website – www.berwickcommunityhospital.co.uk – before the planning application is submitted. The trust had intended to hold a drop-in session in the town, however, this is now not possible due to the current government restrictions.

On the website, people will be able to look at the plans for the new development on the existing Berwick Infirmary site and make comments before the consultation closes at 5.00pm on Monday 20 April 2020. People without access to the internet can telephone 0191 261 5685. The hoardings around the area where the new hospital is set to be built are being erected and the winning images from the trust’s photography competition will go on display in due course.

Marion Dickson, executive director for nursing, midwifery, allied health professionals, surgery and community services at Northumbria Healthcare, is leading the Berwick redevelopment project.

She said “Whilst dealing with the evolving coronavirus situation must be the trust’s top priority, building our new Berwick hospital remains an important project for us and we’re very keen to keep it on track.

“Circumstances have meant that we’ve had to change the way we’re carrying out the next stage of the process with an online consultation rather than a drop-in session for the public. However, please be assured that people will have the same amount of information and a telephone number is available if residents have difficulty accessing the internet.

“We were very pleased to see so many people at our drop-in sessions at the Town Hall last month and that the response we had was hugely positive. We fully appreciate that these are unsettling times however we’d urge people to log on, if they’d like to, and view the updated plans and let us know their views.”

The new hospital will re-provide all the existing services and embrace the latest technology. It is planned that Well Close Medical Group will be part of the new development which will pave the way for further integration between primary care (the GPs) and secondary care (the hospital).

The resurfacing of the car park next to maternity is complete and next to the minor injuries unit is now the only way to access the hospital, as the number of entrances have been reduced across the trust to help further reduce the spread of coronavirus.

Marion added “These are extremely challenging times for everyone working in the NHS. I would like to say thank you and express how very proud I am of our Northumbria family for the passion and dedication our staff are showing every single day to care for our patients.”

Northumbria Hospital

Healthwatch at the Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital

Working in partnership with Healthwatch North Tyneside and Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, we heard from 309 people over 14 three-hour sessions in the waiting area in the Emergency Department and Paediatrics Emergency Department of the Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital in November 2018.  People had travelled to the hospital independently and told us why they were attending the Emergency Department, what other services they had/tried to access and what they thought could make their experiences of getting care better.

Based on what we heard we produced the report below which includes recommendations that are now being implemented by Northumbria Healthcare, Northumberland and North Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Groups and North East Ambulance Service Foundation Trust.  Our observations and recommendations:

  • We suggest that a system-wide approach is needed to review the information and advice available to support people to get the care they need and help people to navigate themselves through the urgent care system.

 

  • A system wide approach is needed to review the transport issues people have highlighted, particularly public transport access to The Northumbria Hospital. We are pleased to note that Northumbria Healthcare has established a Rural Healthcare Commission and we hope this report will be used to help inform the discussions about transport.

 

  • Changes to the waiting room environment to improve experience and accessibility.

 

A number of changes have already taken place or are planned to the public waiting areas.

Read the report – Understanding people’s experiences of attending the Emergency Department at the Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital

New Ambulatory Care Centre Open

A new ambulatory care centre opened this month at Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital.  Ambulatory care is treating urgent conditions on a same day basis, without you being admitted to hospital.This is a consultant-led service provided alongside specialist nurse practitioners. Diagnostic scans may be available same day, and with medications dispensed straight from the ward, any potential delays for patients are minimised and treatments are received promptly.The ambulatory care centre is not a walk-in centre, instead patients are referred from the emergency department, their GP or other healthcare professional. The only exception to this is emergency gynaecology which patients can self-refer into. This centre will aim to treat patients on a ‘same day’ basis to prevent admission to hospital, allowing patients to receive the care they need as rapidly as possible before returning home.

If you’d like to know more about the ambulatory care centre please visit Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

External view of Berwick Infirmary

Northumbria Healthcare announces site of new Berwick hospital

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust – in partnership with NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) – today announced the £25million investment in a new stand-alone hospital for Berwick will be located on the site of the current Infirmary.

The decision comes after both organisations listened to, and reflected on, local views on previous proposals to develop a joint site with the Swan Centre for Leisure. Following this feedback, and a review of the alternative options, a conclusion has been reached to develop a new hospital on the existing site.

“We are delighted to be able to announce that the new hospital will be built on the site of the much loved (Berwick) Infirmary,” said Northumbria Healthcare CEO Sir James Mackey. “Following extensive joint public engagement, and a thorough review of all alternative sites, we believe this is the best option which also commands the support of both staff and the community – a factor which is very important to both the trust and the CCG. It is clear that the joint development was not what the town wanted. Instead, people demonstrated their support for a stand-alone hospital on the current site. Accordingly, we have listened, responded and worked together to come up with this plan as an alternative.”

Janet Guy, chair of Northumberland CCG agreed, saying: “This is great news for Berwick and we are delighted to see the project moving forward in a way that meets the needs of the local community. Patients are at the heart of our services and this decision is as a direct result of the feedback we have heard. We very much look forward to working with Northumbria Healthcare to provide a first class health facility for the people of Berwick. It’s very exciting and is brilliant news for both the NHS and the town.”

Both the trust and the CCG emphasised that the full £25million allocated for the project would be invested on the new hospital.

“It’s too early to have specific plans in place – though we are in preliminary talks with a number of possible developers – but we are working quickly to ensure we have plans to share as soon as possible,” continued Sir James.  “In particular we’ve listened to the local community’s concerns that they have to travel too far, too often, for relatively minor or routine appointments. As such, eradicating the need to travel for minor or routine appointments will be a driving force behind our plans and we will ensure we track and publish the number of miles patients have to travel on a yearly basis, with a clear aim to make significant reductions in this travel for patients.”

“The design will focus on flexibility, embracing new technology and, most importantly, ensuring outstanding care,” said Janet. “The emphasis will be on delivering as much as we safely can as close to patients as possible – including in primary care; the opportunities for which we are very excited about.”

The new hospital will represent the very latest in design and be ‘future proofed’; with all current services being retained and with a view to incorporating more where safe to do so.

“We fully expect that the new hospital will adapt and evolve over time – the NHS is ever-changing after all,” said Sir James. “I can confirm that all the services currently provided at the Infirmary will continue. In addition, I can also assure residents that we are looking very closely at what might safely be added – especially with the aid of new technology and ways of working – for instance, telemedicine. On a personal note, I would like to thank staff and the community for their patience and participation throughout this process. I know it’s been a long and sometimes frustrating road – a sentiment I share – but this is a big, positive step forward. Now we have a plan in place we are absolutely determined to get on with it. To that end, I very much look forward to working with the people of the town and surrounding area as we start work on the next phase.”

Events

Share your experiences – join our online forum

As we will be unable to get out and about across the county to meet with and listen to people for a while, we’re holding some public online forums, and we’d like you to join us. If you are unable to take part but would like to tell us about your experiences of these services, Caroline and Lesley will be available by phone, text and email each Wednesday between 3.00pm and 4.00pm to listen, answer any questions and help with providing information about services.

The forums will take place via Zoom. Read our guide on how to use Zoom.

Whilst some of our forums are on specific issues and services, this one is a chance to tell us about any health or social care service you’ve used in the last 12 months. That could be hospitals, GPs, care homes, NHS 111, mental health services, maternity services or dentists and pharmacies.

If you would like to take part please contact Laura Kane: laurak@healthwatchnorthumberland.co.uk, or call 03332 408468.

Find out more about our other online forums

 

View of Berwick town from the bridge

Public Drop-in Session for Berwick Hospital Plans

People are being invited to a drop-in session next Thursday, 27 September to give their views on plans for hospital and leisure development in Berwick.
Representatives from Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and Northumberland County Council will be at the The Swan Centre from 10am to 12pm to listen to people’s views and answer any questions.A spokesperson for the trust and council said: “We’re fully aware that some local people have concerns about co-locating a hospital and leisure centre on one site and we’d encourage residents to come along and talk to us about them so we can better understand how they feel.

“Ahead of the session we’d like to reassure people that the funding for the new hospital is secure as is the funding for the new leisure centre. We look forward to meeting people on the day.”

We will be there to listen to people’s reactions to what they see and hear on the day.

Public Meeting – Berwick Hospital Consultation

A public meeting is being held in Berwick to discuss people’s views on the possibility of a new integrated hospital development.

NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is working with partners at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and Northumberland County Council to consider the possibility of the new hospital in Berwick being part of an integrated development including health, social care and leisure services.

The public meeting is being held as part of the ongoing listening exercise which was launched in February to give members of the public the chance to give their views about the potential new integrated development and about the different sites that are available.

The public are encouraged to come along and listen to the emerging themes and give their views on an integrated hospital development for Berwick and the surrounding area.

If you would like more information please contact Melody Price: 01670 335185 or email: melodyprice@nhs.net. You can also give your views by visiting NHS Northumberland CCG’s website at: www.northumberlandccg.nhs.uk or on twitter: @NHSNlandCCG or facebook: @northumberlandccg.

stick figure with crates of fruit

Morpeth Market Drop-in

We will be market stall holders on Wednesday 21 February, when we visit Morpeth Market to talk to local people about their health and social care experiences. Good or not so good, praise or concern, we want to hear your thoughts. You can also complete our annual survey which will help us discover what matters to you about the care you and your family receive from GPs, hospitals, dentists, mental health services, pharmacists, care homes and any other service you may use or need to use in the future. Pick up one of our pens, lip balms or stress balls if you’re quick!